Logs:TSO-NOLA - Zen and the Art of Triangulating Cellphones

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TSO-NOLA - Zen and the Art of Triangulating Cellphones


Characters: Muse, Nikola, Seth, (Band of Savages) and Mingzhu as ST
Date: 2020-06-12
Summary: The Band of Savages follow their suspicions, to talk to one of the original Casket Girls
Disclaimers:





A clear Louisiana evening on the Regas steamboat, cruising down the Mississippi at a gentle velocity.

Tonight, the Savages aren't down among the crowd, partying and gambling and drinking on the rest of the ship. They've retreated to a great height, a private suite on the third deck of the ship normally reserved for VIP guests. The two rooms have been Vampire-proofed with metal sheeting fitted snugly over the windows for the daylight hours, but otherwise retain all of their usual opulence. The suite connects out to a large balcony fitted with a circular outdoor table that can seat six. It's here that Seth is lounging, looking up at the night sky in the casual attire of a charcoal t-shirt, jean shorts, and sandals. He's casually sharpening a set of knives with a whetstone, the actions made rote by decades of practice.

From below, distant sounds of a live jazz band waft up from the ship, breaking the quiet of the Louisiana evening. Occasionally a bird call echoes out over the expansive waters of the Mississippi as the steamboat trundles along through the wilderness.




Sitting out on the balcony, the balmy nightbreeze keeping her heavy tresses out of the way thanks to the careful direction and tilt of her head, the sweet-faced fiend that is the latest Harpy of the Praxis is frowning ever so slightly down at the cheap cellphone held in her hand. It's always a brief struggle, being handed technology different than that one is accustomed to.. and she's only just gotten the hang of her personal sleek smartphone. The burner? Ugh. It takes her a few attempts to locate the - one would think - obvious green icon in the shape of a more traditional handset.

The Shadow herself is perched on the edge of that expansive round table, long legs dangling, barefoot. With her black sequinned, high waisted shorts and a simple vest top of white cotton, she somehow manages to pull off 'rakishly tousled glamour' as if it were the most natural 'Next Big Thing' (tm).. when in fact all she's done is kick off her heavy combat boots and abandon her leather jacket somewhere inside the private suite. Ten points to Slytherin. She makes it look good. Thumbing in a phone number, reading it with care from a scrap of paper held aloft in her other hand - the lights are kept dim enough this high above the main deck that she's foregone her usual dark-tinted aviators for now - Muse as an afterthought presses the option for speakerphone, casting a sidelong glance toward Seth. Holding the device aloft in her palm between them, she waits patiently for the call to connect, one bare foot swinging gently to and fro.

Some digging throughout the Praxis turned up a grudging response from a particularly anti-social chap, who claimed to have maintained regular contact, by letter, with the elusive Helene. Who, as it turns out? Is the Daeva Primogen of Montreal. Or so they've been told. A little delicate pressure from Niko, and they procured both an emergency contact number and an address. Let's face it, though.. a successful phonecall would be much less fuss...




As captain and helmsman, Nikola actually has duties when the ship is underway. Fortunately for him, both Nikola and Seth have taken care in the hiring of their staff -- Nikola, in particular, is exceptionally protective of his gigantic baby. The bearded Ventrue is on the steamboat's bridge for awhile this evening, feeling the helm live beneath his hands. He glances occasionally at the instrument panel, noting sudden changes in depths. They do not call the Mississippi Old Misery for nothing -- there are dangers here, and not all of them are Savages. Even a single submerged tree trunk could cause expensive damage, not to mention wreak havoc on the cocktail waitresses.

Eventually, however, Nikola does recall that he has somewhere to be. He waves over one of the Bridge Crew and, after a few muttered instructions, steps away from the chrome wheel. Not without giving it a final, loving caress. He absently slips a flesh-toned earbud into his left ear as he walks out, heading for the VIP suite. The Pirate Lord is well-dressed, as ever when he is on duty. A black dress shirt, black pants, charcoal vest, crimson tie -- even his hair has been slicked back off his forehead. But as he walks toward his companions, the big Vampire rolls up his sleeves.

He ducks into the suite casually, tugging the door closed behind him and flipping the bolt on the lock. Then adds the security chain. And then the rather sneakier, less-noticeable, security measures that Seth has arranged. He turns, smiling over at the Ptolemaic gentleman, glancing down at the brace of knives with a smile. "All's well below," he says cheerfully. Nodding over to the balcony, sauntering until he can see both Muse and Seth without turning his head -- setting the trio up into an isosceles triangle. "Have we obtained our invitation to Montreal yet?"




There are two, three rings, and then somebody picks up the phone at the other end of the line Muse has called. A male voice, speaking fluent Quebec-accented French. "Good evening?" There is no sound in the background to give context to where this person might be or what role they have, just that simple, polite greeting.




Ah, the greeter is speaking French. Seth was going to let Muse handle the optics of the phone call, but he's the only one in the coterie that speaks fluent French. A decade in Paris, a few more years in France generally... the Mekhet likewise responds in fluent French, "Good evening, sir. I am Seth Lancaster, a Hound with the Praxis of New Orleans, calling Madam Armaud with a few questions. I was hoping she could help me with an investigation. Could my companions and I speak with her?" He leans back against the table, nodding slightly to Muse once he's finished speaking, and a silent 'I'll ask for English' mouthed to her. But for the moment, they just need to get their interview subject on the line.




The foreign tongue, while familiar in sound to Muse, is not something she herself can translate. As such, she defers to her elder coterie-mate, allowing him to respond while she herself looks up to greet Niko with a fond curve of her lips. She doesn't respond aloud, given the conversation beginning over speakerphone, but the pleasure in having all three of them present is palpable in her relaxed countenance. There's a shake of her head, by way of wordless answer.. and then the little brunette is simply waiting. Tucking the slip of paper into a back pocket with a brief sideways tilt of her weight, she then raises her hand to tuck a wayward lock of dark chestnut hair back behind her ear, gazing thoughtfully down at the cellphone. She's not quite grasped the notion of diverting her attention from a discussion. It's an etiquette thing, despite the disembodied voice being unable to see her. Wireless headsets? Not an option for her quite yet.




Nikola smiles in answer to Muse as she acknowledges his greeting, absently adjusting one of his sleeves. He idly rests his weight against the table's edge, his own Beast prowling between Seth and Muse -- not aggressively, but like a sheepdog that wants to make sure it knows where all the beloved packmates are at all times. Like Muse, he seems more relaxed with the three of them in one room. As the French conversation takes place, Nikola frowns subtly. He tries his best to follow, but the language is somewhat altered since his last encounter with it. And he was never particularly adept in any case. Far too close to cursed Italian, really. He reaches up, touching his earbud, listening to some brief communication, but doesn't respond. Nikola doesn't share Muse's trouble with diverting attention; if anything, the Ventrue seems to relish the multitude of demands on his time.




Upon hearing that Seth is calling from New Orleans, even though he replied in French to the opening query, the speaker at the other end of the line obligingly switches to English. "Madame Armaud has an appointment system, as I am sure many of the Primogen in your home Praxis do. I can check her diary to see when she might be free for such a call, if that would suit?" The deferential nature of his voice suggests either a ghoul or a neonate, someone roped into secretary duty.




Seth obligingly switches to English as well, carrying on his end of the conversation with a professional demeanor. "Please tell her that there is a killer related to the old Ursuline Convent decapitating people and carving caskets next to their corpses, and that it's urgent. While I don't wish to place any undue demands upon her, I think she will be very interested in the subject of our conversation." Seth drums his fingers on the table, not loudly enough to be picked up by the phone's mic, but nonetheless the only betrayal of his otherwise total stillness as he considers the moment at hand.




There's a flicker of wry humor across Muse's features at this calm response. Hell forbid they should inconvenience Madame Armaud with these pesky murders, says that undertone, but get her on the line. Chop-chop. The brunette manages to keep from anything beyond a twist of a smirk across her lips. Though she does studiously avoid eye contact with either of her coterie-mates. Especially Niko. Her green-gold gaze remains upon the illuminated screen of the burner in the murky darkness.




Nikola smiles faintly at the voice on the other end of the line. He tucks his chin in, amusement sparkling in his gaze as he sees Muse refuse to meet his gaze. Instead, looking at Seth, the Ventrue mouths 'French Alfred' and winks. Ostentatiously intertwining his fingers, Nikola begins to twiddle his thumbs. He holds his hands out in front of him, quite obviously intending to draw the attention of the other two Savages -- and perhaps provoke a giggle or two from one of them. Class clowns are always a hit. But the pair know him well -- beneath this mask of levity, there is a grave attention. Nikola is listening closely, waiting to hear the response from this Quebecois gentleman. The mask is simply that -- a put-on, a show to break the tension.




"Allow me to write that down, monsieur," the voice on the other end of the line murmurs, and a keen ear might hear the industrious sound of pencil on paper. "Ursuline Convent, decapitating, caskets. Bon. I shall convey the message and see if Madame Armaud is willing to speak with you this evening. Shall I return the call on this number?" His tone remains consistent, polite and servile, no sense of heightened emotions or concern despite the perhaps concerning statement from the New Orleans contingent.




"Thank you, that will be all." No need to risk angering a moody and reclusive elder: Seth realizes this is probably as good as it's going to get without going to Montreal and kicking in the door. A nightmare of logistics, that. So instead he puts on a practiced smile that can be heard through the tone of his voice. "I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us," he continues, concluding the formalities of their call. He waits for anything else the secretary might say before hanging up, and then he looks across to Muse and Nikola with raised eyebrows and a helpless shrug. He doesn't say anything, just reclining his back against the edge of the table.




"Just because her butler is there.." Muse begins immediately following the disconnect, gently setting the cellphone down beside her on the tabletop. "..don't mean she is." The rich Southern accent laces her words, but does nothing to quell the point. "She could call us from anywhere.. and from a different number." There's a brief pause. Then she raises her dark-lashed gaze, looking between her coterie-mates. "..how difficult is it, really, to pinpoint a location on a cellphone? I mean.. both ways." There's a wary and emphatic downward glance to the seemingly innocuous device as she ponders this aloud, then back up to Seth and Niko. Sure, she's perhaps seen one too many cop shows by now.. but it seems pertinent. Particularly given the resources at their disposal.




Nikola's manner changes as the phonecall ends. He leans forward slightly from his perch on the table-edge. As Muse makes her first observation, the Ventrue nods gravely. His gaze is appraising, fixed on the cellphone for a long moment before he looks up to glance between Muse and Seth. "For someone who didn't know what Google was a few weeks ago, you put your finger right on it." Nikola's tone is serious, almost stern. "I think he was buying time," he observes quietly. And at her second question, the Ventrue sea captain looks over at Seth. Of the three of them, the French-speaking creature is the one who might know the answer to that question. He says, rather hesitantly, "I don't think it's instantaneous, not without some prep-work. Is it?" And then another thought occurs. "...Of course, we provided the time for prep-work, didn't we? If our friend here in the city called and warned them."




"We don't currently have any computer professionals or hackers of that variety on staff, no. And it'd take us some time to set up that kind of business arrangement." Not exactly a computer wizard himself, Seth raises his hands up in a shrug to the other two. "If you want to race the clock, we can have the Regas stop at the next port of call along the Mississippi and try to find someone to trace the call. There probably won't be enough time, but we can try it." He pauses with a brief 'tch,' sucking on his teeth with a measure of annoyance. "Either way. If she is the killer and knows we're on the trail, hopefully she'll at least stop dropping bodies. If we're lucky, maybe she'll come for us and save us the trouble of having to hunt her once she's gone to ground. If she's not the killer..." The Black Constables speculations about whether Helene was witness or murderer were unclear, at least to the Mekhet, and Seth compresses his lips together with a shrug. "Then no harm has been done, yet."

Seth drums his fingers on the table. "I'll record the next conversation, hopefully we can get her to tip her hand, either way, and discern her true intentions."





"I had to learn Google so I could look up every other word Pan says." replies Muse, absently; her eyes lingering upon the Pirate Lord for a few beats, all innocence. Then it's back to the matter at hand. "For an emergency number.. he didn't really sound all that surprised by the call." This is offered in idle support of Niko's belated thought, followed by a glance down and aside as Seth's fingertips drum again on the table's surface nearby. She studies this habitual motion unseeingly for a long moment more as her companions muse (hah) aloud into the night air.

"If she's the killer and she comes for us.. mm." There's a hint of displeasure about Muse's upper lip, distaste for this notion. "On the other hand, if we can establish whether she's near or far.." This meandering train of thought does, as always, have a destination. It just occasionally takes a little longere for her to pull in at the station, as it were.

Raising her head, ignoring a few errant wisps of dark hair that stray across her brow with the shift in posture, the brunette offers another serene blink. It's a habit she maintains, unthinkingly.. unlike her cohorts. "Maybe not on staff." she ventures, in her soft-spoken, honeyed way. "..but I might know how to track down someone who'd do the job." Pause. Another glance between the pair. "Yes, that's right. I know some stuff." She doesn't seem genuinely perturbed.




Nikola stares at Seth blankly for awhile -- not so much in hostility, though. It's as though he's gazing right through the other man. After awhile, clearing his throat softly, Nikola turns and steps away from his Coterie-mates. He raises his hand to his earbud, pressing a small button and muttering into it. "I want security to pull doubles for the next twenty-four hours. Everyone willing to stay on will be paid double and be given two days off in lieu. No. No problem. Just a precaution."

He turns back to the other two, frowning subtly. "If she's not the killer, there's a very good chance she knows who is. And if she knows who the killer is, why hasn't she informed the Primogens or the Sheriff?" His tone is mild, but there is a flinty cast to his features for a moment before he smiles.

Muse's admission of contacts is met with a raised eyebrow and a pleased smile. "Let's see what we can get set up," he acknowledges. And then, solemnly, "Well played, madam. Very well played."




There's a sardonic, sidelong glance cast by Seth towards Nikola at the mentions of 'Primogens and Sheriff'. "What Primogen? What Sheriff? I mean..." Seth laughs shortly, with a shift of his posture. "Who would she actually report to? It'd be us, really, doing the thing here. And we're not exactly established figures of authority." Nikola's point is valid, on the surface, but in the wake of New Orleans' chaotic political climate, it's not as much of a death sentence as it might be in other, more established Domains. At least that's Seth's observation.

Then the other Mekhet has shifted his attention to Muse, nodding slightly with consideration after he gets a handle on what she's offering. "Do it. Offer five thousand as a flat reward for anyone who's able to successfully trace the call. I'll pay for it." He's pulling out his own smartphone, texting his accountant and making the arrangements for an anonymous money transfer from one of his staggered holdings off-shore.




"In fairness, perhaps she did inform the Sheriff and he just ran out of space on his Post-It.." murmurs the brunette, already at work thumbing a message, this time via her own phone. So much better, with it's big, glossy, dimly-lit screen. There's neither protest nor concern for the orders given by the Captain over his earpiece - that's his job, as well as being in his nature. A ferocious determination to safeguard them against outside threats. And sometimes savagery just trumps subtlety. Nodding idle, unnecessary agreement with his approval on the topic of acquiring said information, the waifish Shadow continues her rapid 'typing'; her features lit up by the mere hint of illumination in the dark.

"Speaking of the Primogen.. Helene's a Daeva, isn't she." It's not a question. "What was the last anyone heard from Madame Ewart..?" The seemingly idle question is left to hang in the air. With the spate of recent Primogen 'retirements' in New Orleans, have those remaining confirmed their own wellbeing? Not that she has much genuine concern for one of the First Estate, mind you.

There's another nod, firmer this time, as Seth offers up the 'financial incentive'; this detail added to her request before she casts the net, with as much urgency as can be mustered. "Alright.. done." Whew. That was some major exertion. The brunette leans back, bracing her palms behind herself on the tabletop and eyeing her coterie-mates thoughtfully.




Nikola chuckles softly at Seth's response, but there is truth to what the Mekhet says. He considers for a few moments, smiling and beginning to pace. Clasping his hands behind his back, the Ventrue gazes at Seth thoughtfully whenever he turns toward the man. He doesn't immediately interrupt the Mekhet as the man works his financial wizardry -- a form of magic that Nikola only has a vague grasp on. "You're not wrong. And I'll pay the security out of my own funds, if it turns out I'm overly cautious."

Nikola turns to gaze at Muse as she sinks her own barb into the conversation, a fanged smile lighting his face. "Well said," he responds. He doesn't acknowledge the way she doesn't tease him about his security precautions, but there's a hint of peacocking in the man as he continues to pace. Savagery does have its place, after all. When she finishes her work, and Seth finishes his, Nikola adds "Well done." He nods to the phone in Muse's hands. "I think soon, I'll be the only technological dinosaur left."


It does not take long for one of Muse's potentials to come through with confirmation that they are willing to give it a shot. 'xxx_Vex_xxx' indicates that they need access to one of the two phones on the call, at the time the call is active, and has requested control access of Muse's phone.




The mention of the Sheriff's Post-It gets a bark of laughter from Seth before he resumes his usual nonchalance.

"I'm not worried about the security costs. The Regas has money set aside for that sort of thing. It's almost trivial. The company can afford it. I'm only making the arrangements here because the payments are anonymous, I'm not going to wire money from my personal accounts to someone who can use that to glean my contact information." Listening to the conversation, Seth looks out over the river thoughtfully while the coterie plans, regarding the play of moonlight on the water.

"You can take some community college classes you know," the Egyptian Vampire jokes with his compatriot in a deadpan, looking aside to technological fossil Nikola with a brief sidelong flick of his green eyes. Then he's looking back, his eyes briefly alighting on the screen of Muse's phone at the contact from the hacker. "Good, do it," he affirms, before looking back out to the moonlit waters of the Mississippi. "Madame Ewart? Who?" He's joking, of course Seth is familiar with the roster of who's who in New Orleans, but his point remains at the implied lack of recognition as he nods towards Muse in turn before resuming his contemplations.




Ooh, that didn't take long, thanks to Seth and his Jolly Green bribery, no doubt. As the sleek cell in her lap buzzes gently, Muse offers the big Ventrue a look; the cant of her head and curve upon her lips conveying sardonic amusement as well as empathy. They are, all of them, decidedly far from neonates. But Niko is, of the three, the most obviously a creature of another era entirely, beneath that rakish charm. That restless pacing is, to her, perfectly understandable.

Though, the notion of him sitting in a night class does rouse a twitch of her lips to a fleeting grin. Ahem.

Seth has already caught the response on her screen, and so the brunette calmly obliges; thumbing a response that includes the details for accessing the burner phone, still resting by her thigh. In response to the jibe about the Daeva Primogen, she offers only a smooth retort. "She was workin' as a waitress in a cocktail bar, when she met you.." This week's technological discovery, apparently, has been 80s covers on Spotify. Well, each to their own. At least she hasn't developed a taste for 90s boybands. Yet.

The N-Sync era cometh. The end times are upon us.




"I signed up for a few," Nikola admits. And then, a wicked smile plastering itself across his face, he adds "Where do you think I keep finding my young playmates?" No one is perfect, and Nikola Senjan certainly has never pretended to any degree of morality. Not, at least, in a long time. He adds "I had to drop out, of course, after the professor invited me for dinner. She tasted wonderful." He might be joking. He's probably joking. He grins even wider as Seth gives Madame Ewart, that missing Daeva, a shaft of his wit.

But when Muse gives him that look of shared understanding, some of Nikola's humor slips slightly. He inclines his head briefly. Her shift into pop-culture references brings his smile back, and he states softly, in an Eastern-accented baritone. "She's found a much better place, either with us or without us." Oh dear. Are there two of them?




At the sudden lapse into song lyrics, Seth just shakes his head with... not quite exasperation, but long-suffering patience, anyway. He rises up to his feet, strolling a few steps over to the railing of the balcony and opting to lean on that with his elbows braced against the metal. He's staring out over the side of the boat thoughtfully, the idle banter of the coterie somewhat removed from his thoughts. It's one of Seth's habits, in situations like this, as he goes quiet and strategizes before an impending event. Hardly the first time that he's done it. "You know," he notes, "it might have been the rain, but we didn't smell any perfume on that corpse," he considers, "and it'd be hard to move a body like that without getting some perfume on it."

What exactly is going on with Helene Armaud? He can't figure it out. While some part of Seth wishes he were psychic so he could simply rip the memories of evidence from the minds of the Black Constables to assauge his frustration in this moment, he's nonetheless planning around the possibilities. "I'm not ready to say she's the killer yet, and if we treat her like she is to force a confession, we may spook her. Let's not go too hard to drive her away before we have a clear picture of the situation." Then he's quiet again, back to considering the moonlit reflection on the Mississippi.




For her part, Muse doesn't believe even for a moment that the Ventrue is joking. Doesn't even cross her mind. "Honestly, I'd have picked anywhere other than a place of education, considerin' the type that seems to appeal to you, Niko darlin'. Most of them are slower'n molasses." It's not said with any particular venom, the Shadow's attention still largely on the screen of her cellphone as she makes sure her reply has gone through successfully. Yep. The device fades onto standby again as she rests it down on her thigh, bare feet taking up that steady to and fro swing again where they dangle. There's another smirk offered aside toward the Ventrue, as he catches the quoted lyrics.

As her fellow Mekhet rises and drifts toward the railing, however, Muse's heavy-lidded eyes trail him, recognising that need for a moment of contemplative quiet. She affords him this, answering only when Seth voices his thoughts out loud. "Maybe it was left deliberately to implicate someone entirely removed from the actual killer.. maybe it was just an oversight." Her narrow shoulders rise and fall fractionally in a helpless shrug. "But I agree.. we don't know for sure it's Helene." Offering a free hand out, palm upward, in the direction of his silhouette against the inky waters, the Harpy quirks her lips to venture a tentative warmth. "..come back. I won't sing anymore." She hadn't sang anyway, actually. Which is a kindness. She's undeniably appealing, but Muse couldn't carry a tune in a bucket and they all know it.

To Niko, she turns her attention once more in the quiet following their coterie-mate's advice. "Niko.. you're the best at charmin' folks. I mostly just scare people." It's true, he's the one with the silver tongue. Her own is more.. sharp. And without the benefit of physical presence, in this she's somewhat lacking. Picking up the burner phone, she offers it out to the Ventrue without hesitation.




Nikola watches Seth move out onto the balcony with a thoughtful expression. When the Mekhet is not looking, the Ventrue's expression grows grave, almost grim. When the other man is solemn, Nikola is flippant -- but that doesn't mean he isn't taking this quite seriously. He simply knows how to counterbalance the other man's quiet moments. The dynamic may need constant re-tuning, but Nikola at least believes he's helping. When Seth comments on the perfume, the Ventrue nods faintly. He looks over at Muse with a knowing glint in his eye. "I'm not sure at all that she's the killer," he says in an uncharacteristically somber tone of voice.

He clears his throat softly. "I heard back from that detective. Harrington. He tells me that all but three of the victims used their credit cards along Ursulines Street just before they were killed." Nikola looks between Muse and Seth, absently brushing a hand through his beard. "It's a long street. But it points back to the Convent. And I suspect our three missing links were all paying in cash. Armaud knows something, and she may not be our friend... But I doubt she's the killer."

He looks over at Muse, eyes widening for a moment in pleasure as she joins him in banter. "It's community college, darling. It's not as though I'm picking them up at Loyola." And then, as the topic grows more solemn again, he adds "It's possible, too, that we're thinking too hard. Not every piece of evidence that we find will be a clue to the killer's identity. There will be no unified theory of crime-solving, not ever." He smiles slightly as Muse tries to lure their coterie-mate back into their vicinity. He does seem surprised as he takes the phone. "I'll put it on speaker," he promises. "If I... whiff... You two can leap in and rescue me."




It is as the trio are discussing their thoughts around Helené, that Muse's phone rings. Assuming she picks up, a pleasantly French-accented female voice speaks in excellent English. "Good evening? Is this Mr. Lancaster of the New Orleans praxis?"

Moments later, a text comes through from xxx_Vex_xxx to confirm they're starting the trace.




Nikola flips the burner open and triggers the speaker before he answers, his Eastern European accent gently winding through the words. "This is Nikola Senjan, Mister Lancaster's business partner and fellow Hound of the New Orleans praxis. I am, however, here with Mister Lancaster. He is listening in." His voice is friendly, and he's even smiling as he looks from Muse to Seth, the better to convey his harmlessness through tone. "I want to thank you, Primogen, for returning our call so promptly."




Having handed the burner over, Muse is free to keep an eye on her own cell. The quiet alert prompts a glance down to scan the confirmation text from their hacker, eliciting a silent nod of assent from the brunette to her companions. With Niko making his genteel introductions and Seth focusing, no doubt, on searching for any discernible trace of deception within the feminine voice on the other end of the line, the Harpy remains sensibly both quiet and still; absentmindedly sucking on her lower lip in a bizarrely innocent expression of serious concentration. Though whether it's on the conversation is anyone's guess, of course. It could be on the internal philosophies of lampreys.




"Seth Lancaster here, hello," the Mekhet chimes in helpfully when Nikola mentions his name, but otherwise remains silent, focusing on the call. The only addition that he makes is to press the 'record' button on the phone as the conversation begins so that the audio is logged.




"I must admit gentlemen, that the content of the message taken by my assistant piqued my curiosity. What exactly is it that I can assist you with?" the woman's voice enquires politely, with only the faintest undertone of 'don't waste my time'. Not entirely unexpected from someone who is helping to run the Montreal praxis, perhaps.




Nikola shifts his hands slightly to allow Seth and Muse easier access to the screen, holding it out on his palm. He keeps his friendly smile in place, his one tone collegial, even professional, as he answers the question. "As your assistant likely conveyed to you, madam, there has been a spate of killings here in New Orleans. We've grown concerned, as each body has been decapitated and exsanguinated -- entirely exsanginuated -- in a manner that seems supernatural."

He clears his throat, raising his eyebrows as he continues, watching the other two for cues. "Twenty-three mortals so far, that we've located. Likely two or three more that we have not. And there seems to be a connection to the Ursulines Convent, as my partner mentioned. Each body has a casket etched near the corpse. We hoped you might be able to offer some insights."




"It's related to the casket girls of that era, and as your signature on the Shadow Accords is from a similar period of time..." Seth finishes connecting the dots of Nikola's introduction calmly. "I was hoping you could help us identify any Vampires or other immortals from that era who might have survived and had... memorable killing habits, and might have slept until the present day."




There is a thoughtful pause from the other end of the line, a low 'mmmn' of consideration. "I don't recall a great deal from that period of time; I have had several periods of deep sleep since then," the woman murmurs. "I remember parts of the voyage from France, and I have a few recollections of visiting the Ursuline convent, as well as the formation of the Accords some decades later. People.. mmn. I don't recall anyone being particularly indelicate with their hunting, at least no moreso than typical. There were always a few who had less control in general, but then as now, murdering the kine in explicit fashion was frowned upon."




Nikola looks over at Seth as he listens to the response. When he answers, his voice is grave, earnest. He is trying his hardest to convey an honest appeal for help, rather than the suspicion that is beginning to harden his own features. It's all too convenient, this story -- and it doesn't mesh with the Black Constables who are certain she was a witness. "Could you tell us more about the voyage from France itself, madam? It may help us to provide a context." And it would shore up the notion that Helene herself was a casket girl -- a notion that seems half-confirmed already. "We are, quite frankly, struggling to fill in some very large gaps. Every bit helps."




Lampreys think very lamprey-like thoughts. About lamprey-like topics in a context thats very lamprey-like.

Rousing from her important reverie, Muse flits a glance up and between her companions pointedly as the woman mentions her trip from France to the nunnery. Wasn't that the path taken by the casket girls, after all? Catching that shift in Niko's demeanor, she shifts her gaze to Seth in turn. Though one eye remains alert, on the periphery, for any updates to her own cell in regard to the trace.




"And the circumstances of the Convent closing down, if you remember them. Something about a haunting?" Not wanting to get the conversation too off track, Seth does lead with what he considers to be the most important detail of this situation. Seth himself isn't that suspicious yet, expression remaining placid. Granted, she is far more ancient than he and could lie to him, probably, even without the barrier provided by the phone... but he's not alarmed so far.




"Truthfully? It was appalling. I was curious about the new world, and so arranged to be chosen as one of the girls sent over to New Orleans, lacking the funds to arrange more comfortable travel. Fortunately as was the custom of the day, the girls - and I - were kept below-decks and out of the sun. It was dull; there are only so many games of cards and cat's cradle and goose game you can play. But, if you are asking what I think? I was the only Kindred aboard on my ship. I don't recall any others coming in the following waves of girls, but that may be something lost to memory." Helené's voice is quite emotive, unnusually for someone of her age, reflecting the distaste and boredom of the subject matter in question.

Another text comes through from xxx_Vex_xxx: 'Within 20 miles of the mast at N45.4056 W75.7197 which is in Hintonburg, Ottawa'

After another brief pause, Helené continues with, "Oh yes, the haunting." There is a faint thread of amusement there. "I suppose the nuns didn't ever consider petty theft to be the reason a bunch of belongings might be missing. I do believe that was the ultimate cause, even if they chose to see it as some kind of demonic affair, closing off the third floor and all that nonsense."




Nikola frowns, listening to the discontent in the woman's voice. He seems momentarily at a loss, chewing the inside of his cheek before he continues. "I sympathize, madam. Having spent time at sea, I can relate to the boredom belowdecks." And then, thumb darting out, he presses 'mute' on the phone to address Muse and Seth quickly. "Do we press her about the witnesses?" He presses 'mute' again, allowing Helene to hear, and continues in that same sympathetic tone. "I'm curious. Why was it only the third floor that was shut down?"




Holding her cellphone up, Muse turns the screen toward her coterie-mates so that it's easily visible for their reading ease for a moment. So the Daeva is, indeed, in the vicinity of her Praxis. As for Niko's swift query, the brunette arches a brow. Returning her own attention to her cell, the Shadow swiftly thumbs something in, which promptly produces an image in Google search. And up once more comes the screen, her free hand rising to emphatically point at the jpg. A Disney princess? With skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony. Snow White. In the end, it's Seth's gaze she catches and holds, trying to silently convey her meaning by this alone.




There's a blink at Muse as Seth raises an eyebrow, thinking for a few moments while Nikola's talking, and then it occurs to him. He lightly pats Muse on the shoulder, silently conveying his appreciation at the mention, and then leans in to talk into the next opportune silence in the conversation.

"Thank you, Madam Armaud. And finally," Seth pauses with a palm-up 'wait' gesture towards Nikola, "Do you recall a strikingly pretty woman, red lips, pale skin, and dark hair, wore the dresses of the time, had an Old World French accent, and liked to wear a heavy perfume? From that era, probably also a casket girl? Strong sense of passion or justice?" Seth's voice is deadpan. He waits a beat. "She's been spotted at the site of the killings as recently as a few weeks ago. We have a reliable necromancer." He's very, very intent upon her reaction to this information.




"Honestly, I don't know. I believe that's where they kept some of the caskets that were left behind, but I wasn't involved with the convent when it all happened," Helené replies, perhaps a touch regretfully. She pauses after Seth's question, then there's a quiet laugh. "I think you just described about two thirds of the girls and a good proportion of the members of the Praxis at that time, Mr. Lancaster. Physically, anyway. I wouldn't really know about the passions. If you have a picture, I would be happy to look at it and try to help identify her?" she suggests.

Another text comes through from xxx_Vex_xxx: Within 6 miles of the mast at N45.4056 W75.7197, which is in Lyon, Ottawa.




Nikola glances up at the gesture from Seth to hold. He lifts his own finger, circling the air and pointing to the other man as he mouths, Keep it going...I've got nothing. The big Ventrue seems puzzled, a furrow wrinkling his brow.




Similarly having nothing to add, Muse withdraws her phone following the pat to her shoulder, clearing away the screens she has open. Ah, there's another text. Narrowing in on the Primogen's location. Or supposed location. After all, if she thought of this, it's perfectly possible others are two or ten steps ahead of her. Suffice to say, that burner's going straight in the river as soon as the call is ended.




"She, if the killer is indeed female, seems to be using extreme speed to get around, so there's no camera pictures of her that we've captured yet. She also has enough strength to cleanly decapitate a human being in one blow, unless she's using Madam Guillotine for her dirty work." A brief pause at the joke about the French Revolution. "Everything we have suggests a Vampire, in the absence of better evidence," Seth begins talking more candidly as the phone tracking seems to rule out Helene's location as being related to the killer.

"Exsanguination, killing only of New Orleans natives and particularly within the French Quarter, post-mortem decapitation, dumping the bodies in the Quarter afterwards and carving the casket next to them. I do admit, it almost seems too choreographed, like someone's using the excuse of the casket girls to go on a killing spree, but." Seth briefly sucks on his teeth, a habitual 'tch', "I do appreciate you indulging our curiosity, Madam. This case has been extremely vexing in its consistency. I thought, given her speed and strength, it was likely that she is also a Daeva, and perhaps you knew her. I regret being mistaken."




There's a thoughtful musing sort of sound from the woman at the other end of the line. "I am no hound or sheriff to be commenting on such an investigation, but it does sound too clean," Helené agrees quietly. "I do not know why someone would go for decapitation, either. There are far easier and less messy ways to kill." An opinion, rather than anything else. "I understand your concerns of course, and if you come up with any other questions, please do get in touch again. I will let Jacques know to forward any contact from you regarding this matter promptly."

Another text comes through from xxx_Vex_xxx: Within half a mile of the mast at N45.4114 W75.7064, which is in Pimisi, Ottawa.




As Seth begins to bring the phone call to a close, Nikola inclines his head gravely to the Mekhet. He's tracking the updated coordinates that Muse provides, filing them away in his mental navigational charts. Once this call is concluded, one can imagine that he'll be plotting the triangulation. But even on the basis of the broad coordinates, he can guess that these are far to the north. It sounds as though the Daeva is, at least, not anywhere near New Orleans. "We appreciate your assistance, Madam. And we agree - the decapitation does seem to have some significance." Belatedly, a glimmer of appreciative humor blossoms in his eyes as he looks over at Seth. He mouths, a little too extravagantly, holding a hand to his chest, You remembered!




An eyebrow raised in Nikola's direction, and Seth shakes his head with a snort of air through his nostrils. "Thank you, Madam Armaud, and have a pleasant evening," is what the other Hound says, for his part. Then he sits down at the table with a somewhat defeated slump, quickly corrected, but there is a flicker of irritation in his eyes.

Once the phone call has been ended, Seth murmurs as he summarizes the events, "So there definitely was a haunting, and disappearing possessions. Beyond that..." He shakes his head slowly. "It's either an old monster from that era, or someone pretending to be an old monster to cover up their killings. What the Wardens gave us isn't exactly a dead end, but..." He drums his fingers again. "It's not a clear lead either."

Seth makes the arrangements to have the money wired from an overseas back account to xxx_Vex_xxx, as per the agreement, tapping on the glowing rectangle of his phone.




"Well.. at least Seven was right about the third floor thing. And that's where they were keepin' the forgotten caskets?" Muse ventures this last part a touch uncertainly, glancing between her coterie-mates for confirmation. Pushing off lightly from the table, she hops down to land near-silently on bare toes, remaining poised on them like a dancer as is her habit. Plucking the burner phone from Niko's innocent hand, the brunette crosses the short distance to the balcony railing, apparently taking a great deal of twisted pleasure in hurling the unfortunate piece of plastic into the Mississippi, where it sinks immediately into the murky, opaque depths. Satisfying splash. Or so she likes to imagine. Between the general noise of the Regas and the perpetual motion of the river around her, it's just a drop in the proverbial ocean.

Turning back to the others, the Shadow arches her brows in polite enquiry. "So. The nunnery, then." It's the logical next step, at last. She's been itching to explore the place ever since the tale around the caskets was first brought to her attention. So really, indirectly, this is all Seth's fault. He does insist on dragging her along on all those historic tours. It just took the added intrigue of decapitated corpses to really ensnare her imagination, is all.